Novartis Picks Merkley Unit For Incontinence Drug

Merkley Newman Harty & Partners Healthworks is in final negotiations to take on creative duties for Enablex, an incontinence drug from Novartis Pharmaceuticals, sources said. The unit of Omnicom’s Merkley Newman Harty & Partners in New York was selected after a review that also included sibling shop BBDO Health, said sources. Billings have not been determined, but sources estimated spending to be $30 million. Merkley could not be reached, and the East Hanover, N.J., client did not return calls.

Heekin in Line for Top Post at Havas EURO RSCG Worldwide

NEW YORK Havas’ Euro RSCG Worldwide is continuing talks with former McCann-Erickson WorldGroup CEO Jim Heekin about a top position there, sources said. “There’s a high probability he’ll be offered the job,” one source said. Sources said that if Heekin takes a top Euro job, agency chairman and CEO Bob Schmetterer will be able to focus more on his corporate-level duties as president and COO of Euro parent Havas. One source said Heekin is also considering an opportunity to become CEO of an independent U.S. agency with a single office. Heekin was dismissed from McCann in February, several months after a third restatement of parent group IPG’s finances stemming from a $181.3 million accounting imbalance. The bulk of that imbalance was attributed to McCann offices in Europe. Both Schmetterer and Heekin declined comment.

Moody’s Mulls Downgrade of IPG’s Unsecured Debt

NEW YORK Moody’s Investors Service has placed IPG’s $3.1 billion in unsecured debt on review for a ratings downgrade but will likely delay any action until the holding company reports its second-quarter earnings Aug. 12, said Moody’s evp Neil Begley. “Our most recent concern has been the sudden falloff in their business,” Begley said. “It appears that they have not managed their properties very well, and the result was a decline in their margins from the low teens to mid-single digits.” In May, Moody’s put IPG on its watch list, seven months after it lowered the company’s credit rating to Baa3 from Baa1. The downgrade was attributed to “high debt and serious liquidity concerns,” Begley said. IPG declined comment.

Four Vying for Six Flags To Attend Client Briefing

DALLAS The four shops advancing in the review for the $90 million global Six Flags account will attend a joint agency briefing at the client’s Oklahoma City headquarters this week, sources said. Still competing are the incumbent, independent Ackerman McQueen in Oklahoma City; independent Doner in Southfield, Mich.; Publicis’ Fallon in Minneapolis; and IPG’s Deutsch/LA in Marina del Rey, Calif. Doner and Deutsch would handle media duties in-house. Fallon is working on the pitch with Publicis’ MediaVest in New York, and Ackerman has teamed with Publicis’ Zenith Media in New York, sources said. The agencies will get an assignment at the briefing, which they are expected to present to the client Aug. 19. Ackerman McQueen handles creative chores for the amusement-park company and subcontracts media duties to IPG’s Initiative Media in New York. Roth Associates in New York, which is overseeing the review, could not be reached. Agency executives either declined comment or could not be reached.

Active Value, WPP Showdown Looms

NEW YORK Cordiant Communications Group shareholders are set to vote Wednesday on WPP’s acquisition bid, which values CCG stock at about $16 million. CCG’s largest shareholder, U.K. fund manager Active Value, has denounced WPP’s proposed payout and vowed to veto the transaction. Active Value holds a 28.7 percent stake. If a veto should occur, WPP, which needs the approval of 75 percent of the shareholders, has threatened to place CCG into bankruptcy. Last week, Active Value lost the support of its proposed replacement team for CCG top management, which it was to put to a vote Wednesday. In releasing that news, Active Value was vague about its strategy going into the meeting. Equally inscrutable has been the intent of Nahed Ojjeh, who upped her CCG stake to nearly 11 percent before the company’s stock was delisted last Wednesday. Last week, Ojjeh was censured by the U.K.’s Takeover Panel for breaching disclosure rules as she accumulated her holdings.